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For better or worse, the Internet has become democracy's information superhighway, an endless bounty of valuable data and insight or the biggest timewaster of all time. And for years, the government has upheld the principle of "net neutrality," the belief that everyone should have equal access to the web without preferential treatment. But now, Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and a former cable and telecommunications top gun, is circulating potential new rules that reportedly would put a price tag on climbing aboard the Internet. The largest and richest providers, giant corporations such as Verizon and Comcast - in mid-takeover of Time Warner Cable -- like the idea. They could afford to buy their way to the front of the line. Everyone else -- nonprofit groups, startups, the smaller, independent content creators, and everyday users - would have to move to the rear, and the net would be neutral no more. This week on Moyers & Company (check local listings), Bill Moyers speaks with two keen observers of media and the world of cyberspace. David Carr covers the busy intersection of media with business, government and culture for The New York Times. He writes a popular weekly column, "Media Equation" and is a former editor of alternative newspapers in Washington, DC, and Minneapolis. "The open consumer Web, " Carr has written, "has been a motor of American innovation." Susan Crawford is a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, contributor to Bloomberg View and author of, Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age. The net neutrality uproar, she wrote recently, "is appropriate: In bowing before an onslaught of corporate lobbying the commission has chosen short-term political expediency over the long-term interest of the country."
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